After two delays to the start of the school year, thousands of New York City children finally returned to public schools for in-person classes Tuesday, more than six months after the classrooms were shut down at the height of the coronavirus pandemic — with hundreds more expected to return to buildings later this week.
Students at k-5 and k-8 schools taking part in the city’s hybrid learning model, where students take classes in schools and remotely, returned to school buildings on Tuesday with spaced-out desks and mandatory masks.
Outside of a P.S. 15 in Manhattan students and parents stood six feet apart in line receive temperature checks before walking into the building.
Tuesday was part the second part of Mayor Bill de Blasio’s phased-in approach to school reopening. The school was scheduled to begin on Sept. 10 but after weeks of calls from parents, teachers and other school staffers to delay the start of in-person classes in order to solve reopening issues Mayor de Blasio gave into demands.
Roughly 90,000 pre-k, 3-k and severely disabled students returned to classrooms on Monday, Sept. 21, and students at middle and high school are set to go back to school buildings on Thursday, Oct. 1.
New York City is home to roughly 1,600 public schools serving 1.1 million students making it the largest school system in the nation to keep school buildings open for students during the ongoing coronavirus pandemic. Mayor de Blasio said on Tuesday that City Hall expects roughly 500,000 students to return to class this week.
That number has steadily decreased since the summer as more families have chosen to keep their students home for all remote learning this fall and parents grow increasingly worried about the city’s ability to safely reopen schools. COVID cases among staffers have already caused 100 school buildings to temporarily close since teachers and staffers returned to school buildings on Sept. 8.
Many parents worry that that infection rates in schools with continue to jump as more students re-enter buildings. Data released from the city’s Department of Education on Monday show that families of 48% of the city’s public school students have chosen to enroll their children remotely learning only classes.
But for some parents the benefits of in-person learning out way some of the risks. P.S. 9 parent Jordan Feigenbaum sent his five-year-old son back to the Brooklyn school to give him a chance to socialize after months of being cooped up in an apartment with just his parents.
Feigenbaum admits that he was nervous sending his son back into school especially with the recent uptick in coronavirus cases in pockets of Brooklyn neighborhoods. On Monday, the Department of Health reported that the virus was increasing in at an “alarming” rate in nine neighborhoods and Mayor de Blasio announced on Tuesday that the positivity rate citywide broke 3% today as a result of the outbreaks.
But he was surprised by how smoothly things went for his son.
“Most people didn’t have a lot of faith in the mayor or in the chancellor, that they were never going to get this right, there were too many details or lack of details,” Feigenbaum said.